Arts Council grant to boost touring theatre in North East

ARC Stockton and Dep Arts are celebrating having been awarded one of the largest strategic touring grants from Arts Council England.

Audiences in the North East will have the chance to experience some of the best contemporary theatre thanks to an investment of £862,430 from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Programme.  Through the presentation of more than 150 performances at nine venues in the region, the REACH project will attract new audiences and reach communities who would not usually be able to access this type of work at their local venue.

A three year partnership project between ARC, Stockton Arts Centre and Leeds-based theatre and dance producers Dep Arts, REACH will act as a catalyst to bring work to areas of the region that have historically hosted very little touring theatre.

Analysis of Arts Council funded touring activity from 2008/9 – 2010/11 reveals that the North East received only 4,700 touring shows in three years – significantly lower than most other English regions.  Further more, only 35% of those shows visited venues outside of Middlesbrough, Gateshead and Newcastle.

From autumn this year, the REACH project will bring some of the most exciting artists and companies in the country to perform at Alnwick Playhouse; Arts Centre Washington; Bishop Auckland Town Hall; Customs House, South Shields; Queen’s Hall Arts Centre Hexham, Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre; Saltburn Arts Theatre and Seaton Delaval Arts Centre.

The project will include tried and tested shows from respected names such as Unlimited Theatre, The Paper Birds, Kirsty Housley, Stan’s Cafe, Analogue and Third Angel alongside new commissions from Tangled Feet, Chris Thorpe and Hannah Jane Walker, and Theatre Alibi. For the companies involved, it offers the chance to build relationships with previously unvisited communities and meet new audiences.

The project will be supported by Kate Sanderson from Indigo Ltd, who will lead on the audience development and research strand of the project.

ARC’s Chief Executive, Annabel Turpin, said that she was excited to see a shift in cultural opportunity in favour of the region.

There has until now been an imbalance in the provision of contemporary theatre in the area, with North East communities missing out on the kind of inspirational work that those in well served metropolitan areas enjoy. We’ve always felt passionately about addressing this inequality, and now because of the REACH grant, ARC and Dep Arts will be able to deliver high quality work to more than 10,000 people in their local venue. It’s a very exciting time for the region and we’re delighted that Arts Council has decided to invest in this vibrant area of the country.

David Edmunds, Director and Executive Producer of Dep Arts said:

We are incredibly grateful that Arts Council England have chosen to make such a significant investment in this project.  Dep Arts has always been passionate about the development of high quality work and engaging meaningfully with audiences. REACH features some of the most exciting companies making theatre today and means that their work can be enjoyed by audiences who have not had access to this work previously – we’re thrilled to be working in partnership with the fantastic team at ARC to make it happen!

Jane Tarr, Director North, Arts Council England said:

I am delighted that ARC and Dep Arts have been awarded funding through our Strategic Touring programme. Audiences and visitors to the North East will be able to enjoy more contemporary theatre as well as the chance to try something new and see great work on their doorstep. The project, which will tour to nine venues in the region, will also help to strengthen the touring infrastructure thereby benefitting audiences in the long term.


Image: Production shot from Tangled Feet. Image courtesy of Marcus Sarko.